28 April 2013

Reader Questions

Reader Mike writes:

Given our unseasonably cool spring in Boston thus far, and given that our annual Kentucky Derby party is right around the corner, I've been wondering: is it acceptable to pair a sweater with a seersucker suit?  Now, I'm not talking about a wool fisherman's sweater or the like; rather, I mean something more along the lines of a light-weight cotton cardigan or V-neck in a suitably cheerful color.  Does that work, or is it just the stuff of Brooks Brothers catalogs?  Is seersucker so inherently spring-y/summer-y that a sweater is contrary to the very theory of seersucker?

Pictured above is the very outfit I had on when I received this email. A suit in pale blue silk and linen may not be seersucker, but it's about as Spring/Summer as it gets. Given our unseasonably cool Spring, I may indeed have been jumping the gun in the first place with this suit, but I do get bored with the blazer and chinos combination that I tend to rely on in these in-between times. The day was bright and sunny, with temps just at the low 60s, just barely warm enough. Knowing I'd be returning home in it later at night in a much cooler temperature, I opted to add a lightweight cashmere vest by Pringle of Scotland in a suitably cheerful color. Perhaps a bit unorthodox, but I think it works.

Seersucker is going to be more of a stretch, but maybe not impossible. The fabric in the suit above has heft to it, despite its being a Summer cloth. Seersucker is much lighter to begin with, and as such will clash with the weight of most sweaters. However, if you keep the sweater light in both color and fabric, and avoid sleeves, you might make it work. A cotton or light cashmere sleeveless v-neck pullover in pale yellow, baby pink or mint green might be pretty damn sharp with seersucker and a bow tie. Might be a bit much for everyday, but could be spot-on for Derby Day.

27 April 2013

H-E-double hockey sticks

The man from Brooks Brothers: Vintage 1980s Brooks Brothers "346" kelly green hopsack blazer,acquired through trade; Brooks Brothers pinpoint oxford shirt, made in USA, thrift store; Brooks Brothers navy chinos with embroidered kelly green whales, thrift store; J. Press ribbon belt: gingham square, cut from an old shirt.

It is my great honor to declare "Go To Hell" season officially open. Gentlemen, do your worst!

24 April 2013

"Whats wrong with this country..."

Ah, the back biting world of Ye Olde Internet Fora (fora is plural for forum, its Latin, dontcha know)

Recently, I was told by an anonymous commenter that my sitting in a folding chair at my boy's soccer game was "whats wrong with this country". Then some guy who calls himself Popeye Doyle had this to say, from behind a computer, no doubt seated, at Film Noir Buff, a place where you can "find your sartorial chi", if you like:

Our old friend Giacomo over at "A Laughable Wardrobe", giddy with spring fever, posts an inane visual essay about all his favorite fings--fries, no socks, steamed mussels, craft beer, another man's shoes, and his endearingly adorable children--a typical post of a tired blogger with nothing to say. One picture shows the common collapsible chair he hauls to his son's soccer game to sit in for a few minutes when he's not taking pictures of his feet.  You've seen them around, the nylon chairs with the 38-inch wide seat to accommodate the normal American ass, and the cupholder for the ubiquitous 75,000 calorie "beverage" that must be nursed 24 hours a day.  I'm sure a few of you have furnished your room with them.  Some coward hiding behind an anonymous post commented that Giacomo does not need such a thing as who the fuck can't stand up the entire length of a kid's soccer game?

Giacomo's dogs must have been killing him when he read it,  as he angrily responded with intimate details of his personal life:

1) I am giddy with Spring fever, because its been damn cold where I live
2) My children are indeed adorable
3)I am tired, but not so tired as to waste my time berating strangers on the Internet. The web may be an
unseemly place, especially for gentlemen. That's largely because of this sort of thing . I may have little to say
just at the moment, but you, apparently, have nothing to say.
4) I like to sit down sometimes, that's who the f*ck
5) My home city saw a terrorist bombing at an international event, and a hectic police chase last week,
resulting in the deaths of innocent people and the serious injury of numerous others. Do not dare tell me that
my chair is whats wrong with this country.
6) Popeye Doyle is a fictional character from a movie. Nothing like an anonymous coward.
7) This blog is part of my personal life, because, ya know, its my blog
8) My wardrobe is laughable, as is anyone's. The very fact that we attach so much weight and meaning to
any of this is proof that we are from being as evolved was we would like to believe. I'm just trying to enjoy
myself through clothing.
9) Clearly, you stop by here regularly. Thanks for the traffic.
10) See here

Love, Giuseppe

21 April 2013

Firsts of the Season

 Ribbon belts and kelly green blazer
 Bare, pasty, white ankles
 Mussels steamed in beer with bacon, crispy shoe string fries
 Excellent local beer to wash it down with
 Periwinkle blue slubby herringbone silk and linen jacket...
 ...that happens to be a suit. (traded, more here)
 the Boy playing soccer
and sideline seats with my favorite Girl.

It's been a rough week around here, but now that it's over, I'm happy to report that the good far outweighs the bad. Thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts, Now lets forget it and get on with things.

p.s. new stuff today in the Shop. Hows that for getting on with it?

19 April 2013

Brief Hiatus

Until my home lifts itself from the chaos into which its been plunged, this blog will be on hiatus. I will be back,  hopefully soon, but for the moment I'm more concerned with how I'm going to explain whats happening here in Boston to my children than I am with what I or anyone else may be wearing. I appreciate your patience in this matter.

17 April 2013

In The Mix (a minor rant)

Its been said so many times that the earmarks of a well dressed man are all in the details, and its true. With what may seem a fairly limited arsenal of items to choose from (jacket, trousers, shirt, tie, shoes) all the punctuating differences are in the details. Pleats or no pleats, collar style, cut of jacket, shape of the shoulder and so on are just some of the bits that differentiate one style form another. Its worth knowing these things, but it can lead to fetishism and the rise of a clothing police force.

I think of this frequently when  I look around the internet at the men's clothing scene, particularly among devotees of the traditional American look. So many of them adhere so strictly to a set of rules as thought they were carved in stone and handed down from on high. No where is this truer than with the so called "Ivy" or "Trad" crowd. These are the guys who take style to be an exact replication of what an archetypal college man might have worn in 1962-67. Coats are three button and un-darted, with two button cuffs, trousers have flat fronts, and shirts have button down collars. All details must be in place at all times, and no one detail may be combined with details form any other school of style. While I do in fact enjoy that style myself and draw from its influence frequently, I find it highly limiting and anything but stylish to dismiss all else out of hand. I used to encounter this same strictness among the Rockabilly scene in the old days, guys who would measure the roll of your jeans cuff and chemically test the make up of your pomade for correctness. It's the difference between wearing cool old stuff and dressing in what amounts to a Halloween costume.

In the photo above, I've combined a continental style blazer with roped shoulders, darts, side vents and a ticket pocket with forward pleated side tab trousers and a button shirt and rep tie, both from Brooks Brothers. The coat, though made in New York, is European in style. The trousers, from the Andover Shop, are replete with British details, and the shirt and tie are as American as it gets. And yet I see no reason why these things can't all work together, In fact, by mixing them, the severity of any of them is diminished and a more interesting whole is created.

One of the hallmarks o what we call American style always was the combination of sporting and formal elements in this way. As I recall, it's actually as traditional to do this, if not more so, than to adhere strictly to a self imposed set of Ivy League standards. Charlie Davidson has been dressing this way for half his long life. My old boss Harold Simon was notorious for wearing 6x2 double breasted suits with forward pleats  with a button down collar, repp tie  and tassel loafers. The High Holy Fred was doing it in the 1930s, and he's one of the big shots.
It looks good. It looks more like you know about good clothing than simply that you've been reading the blogs the last couple of years. It looks more like you enjoy dressing and less like you enjoy being a crotchety old man obsessed with "the good old days". And anyway, those good old days weren't necessarily so good anyway. Just ask any woman or minority if they wish things were more like 1962.

This isn't to say that this is the only way either. My point is there is no "only way" and that "correctness" will only take you so far. Finding personal style lies in learning all this and then making bits and pieces of all of it your own. Putting it all together is where we find individuality while basically wearing the same thing. Use your freedom of choice.

For the strict types out there, Devo said it best:
Freedom of choice
is what you got 
Freedom from choice 
is what you want

Addendum: I wrote this in the morning using a photo from a week before. The very same day this was written, I wore this:
Kelly green 3/2 sack blazer by Brooks Brothers, with military khakis, ribbon belt and striped button down, both Brooks Brothers, and a plain navy tie, Andover Shop. I dig this too, I just see no reason to be one dimensional. Right?

16 April 2013

Copley Square

I had a whole bunch of ideas for posts in the cue.I was going to write something about wearing an old pink oxford to paint the kids' bedroom, or the vagaries of wearing pleated pants with a button down collar. But then somebody decided to make some kind of point by killing a small child, among others, and blowing a bunch of peoples legs off, and I just couldn't be bothered much to care how I or anyone else was dressed. I have called Boston my home all my life, and I'm a little raw over what happened at the Marathon yesterday. Give me a few days, I'll be back soon.

12 April 2013

The Present

I've been switching out my Winter wardrobe for Spring stuff lately. As I said before, in 20 years little has changed, or rather things have come full circle. I still wear a version of that same outfit from the Summer when I was 16, only now its a bit more refined. Vintage Hathaway shirt, Italian silk ascot, Brooks Brothers khakis and ribbon belt, leather and mesh spectator loafers, and a USA made Polo blazer, all of it from thrift stores. The hat was a treat for myself bought new at the Andover Shop, though I did get for half price in the end of Summer sale.

I bet I still have something like this in the closet when I'm 80....unless even if we've all switched to silver space suits by then.

08 April 2013

The Past

Cape Cod, Summer of 1993, age 16. Vintage 1940s double breasted jacket from the thrift store. Rubinacci shirt, silk ascot, straw hat and Ferragamo leather and canvas spectator shoes all from the late great Filene's Basement of Downtown Crossing in Boston.

20 years later, and some thing never change.

02 April 2013

What's In A Name?

A few years ago, I found this big old trench coat for less than $20 at a thrift shop. It sees a lot of use, especially this time of year when any kind of weather at all is likely to occur. Lightweight enough for a cool but sunny day, waterproof in the rain, warm with it's button-in lining and wool collar attached, and easily slung over the arm mid-day when it is no longer needed, this coat could very well serve as a man's only one. Correct over a suit or sports coat, and oddly dashing with a tux, the proper trench coat has a versatility to it rivaled only by the navy blazer or charcoal suit.
Mine is a knockout example of the style, with every little detail a true trench coat should have. It's got raglan sleeves, a ten button double breasted front, real epaulets,a hook closure at the neck a wicked throat latch that both buttons and buckles shut.
Real belts at the cuffs, and leather fittings on all the buckles. Sometimes I tie the belt, because that's what your supposed to do. Other times I buckle it, because sprezzatrua is all but dead and the new nonchalance may just lie in doing things exactly as intended. Who knows.
A real working storm patch, allowing the coat to button all the way shut.
A deep kick pleat in back which runs from the hem, well below the knee, up past the belt at the waistline.
and a silly fake Burberry lining. It's as well made as a real military officers coat, but I can't for the life of me figure out who made it. In the long run, what difference does it make?

This coat is all about quality. The fact that I found it so cheap second hand is nice, but it's almost beside the point. While brand names can be a helpful guide, especially in second hand shopping, they are no substitute for a knowledge of craftsmanship and construction, and an eye for detail. This coat is so nice, in fact, that I chose it over a real Burberry Macintosh. Superior quality trumps a brand name, every time.