31 July 2013

Italo-American Style

I like what many consider to be traditional American (particularly East Coast American) clothing. I find it flattering and easy to wear, and having grown up in Boston, I know it well. I also appreciate the kind of  roguish style worn by well dressed Italians. Being an American, and somewhat larger than thin, this style is a bit less forgiving on me. However, being of Italian descent and having seen enough old Italian movies, its attraction is not altogether lost on me. Good thing the two need not be mutually exclusive. i.e.:
At the beginning of Summer, I picked up a great pair of linen trousers. Never a big fan of solid navy trousers, these have changed my mind. They are replete with English and European details. The forward pleats are tres British, and the complicated but extremely well made system of closures and buckle tabs can only be Italian.  
Incotex, doesn't get much more Italian than that. Sold originally by Louis, Boston. The linen is thick and heavy, but breathes like gauze. The legs are cut full and comfortable. It's one thing to be all skinny and fashionable and wear clothes that are too tight, but it's kind of totally stupid to wear tight clothes in the heat. "Preppy" or "trad" as you may think I am,I have nothing but good things to say about clothes with a little room in them in Summertime.
The crazy orange jacket, as difficult as I once found it to wear, has become a regular player this Summer, more so even than the plaid madras. I never thought I'd see an orange jacket as an understated option, but somehow this one is. Seen here with a vintage 1980s Sero button down (as American as it gets) worn with two buttons open, no undershirt (pretty Italian, maybe even a pinch, dare we say, gauche?)
Made by Hickey Freeman for long gone F.R. Tripler in the early 1960s. Vintage American, "Ivy" even.
Vintage and modern, Italian and American. No good reason why they can't all play together. In fact, I think it's because the separate items don't really "belong" together that I enjoy an outfit like this so much. Men's clothing can be easy, because good stuff tends to go with other good stuff. Save the period dress up for Halloween parties, and remember, pigeon holes are for pigeons.

p.s. Many thanks to everyone who dropped by the soft opening last Saturday. I think I can safely put that one down in the success column. I look forward to seeing you all again when the Shop open full steam sometime within the coming weeks.

p.p.s. while there will inevitably Shop news and business talk here on the blog, I will try to keep to a minimum. It is my sincere intention to keep this blog focused on its original mission: offering advice to men of modest means as to how to dress well, and indeed live well, on a tight penny. Penury is not now, nor ever has been, and excuse.

25 July 2013

Secret Shop

The live version of the An Affordable Wardrobe Shop, or what the kids and I have taken to calling the "secret shop", will have a preliminary launch this Saturday, 27 July, from 10am-2pm. If you're in the Boston area, drop by and introduce yourself, enjoy an Aperol Spritz, hear some jazz on vinyl, and maybe even buy something.
The racks are jammed full of great Summer goods, with a little bit of tweed and other heavy stuff for the forward looking among you. Best of all, they haven't fallen of the wall ... yet.
And with some artwork on the walls, a comfy chair, and a KLH record player, the room is feeling nice and cozy. It's comfortably air conditioned, making it a great place to wear a jacket and tie for no good reason on an 85 degree day.
click on map for directions

Located in the heart of Davis Square, Somerville, above the Burren pub. Locals know what a great place Davis Square has become to spend a few hours of a lovely Saturday. With plenty of great places to eat and drink, as well as interesting shops, mostly independent and local, it's worth the trip. Drop in and see me, leave your favorite shoes to be fixed at Savas Shoe Repair, get a shave at Dente's Barber Shop, grab some lunch and a beer at any one of a number of places, and if you feel like staying, catch a movie at the historic Somerville Theatre. Easily accessible by car, bike, or public transportation via the red line to the Davis stop.

SAT. 27 JULY 2013, 10am-2pm

This is something of a trial run. I will be keeping regular hours there soon, which I will post here and on Facebook as things fall into place. As you may well imagine, I've got plenty to do putting the final toucheson things, so there will be no new blog posts here until after the weekend. I look forward to seeing you this Saturday. Please allow me once again to thank everyone who helped me get this going, purchased anything from me, or just read my blog. I owe all of this to you.

24 July 2013

10 Years

New York City, 24 July 2003

We had been together five or six years. We decided to elope. The plan was simple: we would go down to New York for an extended weekend, get married in city hall. We needed a witness, so my brother would come down on the train and meet us there. He would be the only other one to know. The we'd come home and tell everyone. But...

A few weeks before the trip, my band was playing a gig of a Friday or Saturday night. I was at the club early for sound check. The soon-to-be-Mrs. G would have dinner with some girlfriends and meet us there. She arrived about ten minutes before we were set to play. One of her friends just grinned at me. "What?" I said. "Nothing" she said. Then, just before we hit the stage, one of my bandmates was congratulating me and giving me a beer. Seems she had some vodka and couldn't contain her excitement. By the end of it, they were toasting us from the stage.

The jig may have been up, but we still went to New York and did it. Young and broke as we were, we stayed at the Carlton Arms, but sprung for the room with the private bath.Our "honeymoon" consisted of a day spent at Coney Island. I knew then she was right for me, because she loved it as much as I did. Who else would? We took the Fung Wah bus home the following Tuesday happily married, and we still are.

Happy Anniversary Mrs. G. I love you.

23 July 2013

The Learning Curve

The longer you thrift shop, the better you become at spotting the good stuff, even at a glance. It is especially gratifying when you just know something is really good, and the brand name had nothing to do with it.
Only yesterday, I turned up a nice looking pair of black tassel loafers. I spotted them from afar, their quality being so obviously superior to that of the sea of low grade, worn out, smelly shoes in which these were floating. I could literally see the clear quality of the leather from ten feet back by comparison. I'm a brown shoe guy 97% of the time, but I was thinking these would look pretty sharp with grey pinstripes,or even a tux, to make the purists commit hara kiri. Anyway, I like them, and they fit me.
Bonus points for the fact they've been worn perhaps two or three times. Certainly worth every penny of $9.99 I paid for them.
It wasn't until after I had decided to purchase them that I saw the label. W.S. Foster and Son of Jermyn Street in London. Believe it or not, I didn't know much about this firm, but I did know that an address on Jermyn Street in London is nothing to sneer at. Brief internet homework revealed these to be a pair of their Arlington loafers, which retail for 345 British pounds ( i.e. $578 US Dollars). Score one for the good guys!

There is a very real learning curve with successful thrift shopping. In the beginning, one finds well recognized brands, cheap. But one quickly learns to spot real quality, cheap. And in the end, with patience, one gets the real good stuff, cheap. But it only works if you stick with the curve.

22 July 2013

Shop Updates (Again)

Things are progressing well in the little room I'm pretending is a little store:
There's a sign on the door...
Racks on the wall with clothes hanging on them...
And Bill and the teddies seem to be enjoying their new home.

No promises, but I am pushing really hard for a soft opening/slash trial run/ slash shake my hand and pat me on the back session this coming Saturday, 27 July. Details to follow.


17 July 2013

The Jams

I don't want to be an old fart, but I know when I'm not hip, or however they call that these days. Still, I like to have at least a vague idea of what the kids are into. But, whenever something is a "thing", and too popular, I am loathe to admit its value. Now that its a few Summer's old, I think I can safely admit that "Electric Feel" by MGMT is a full blown jam, what we used to call a "sex jam" or a "soaker" in the day. When its so hot you can't help but reek of human, these kind of songs are the Jam.

16 July 2013

Shop Updates

Allow me to apologize for my recent absence. It takes a lot more than one might think to ready a single room of only a few hundred square feet for active service as a"secret" store. As such, every spare minute (of which I have few these days) has been spent there. But work is progressing nicely.
We've got a coat of new paint on the walls, a nice tan known officially as "tea and honey", should provide a good back drop for tweed, tartan, and the like.
These curtains are actually just a few yards of cotton gingham from Ikea, with the edges finished with stitchwitch and a warm iron. Real curtains are awfully damn expensive, don't you know.
Good fortune smiled on me in the form of this freestanding mirror, found for $4.99 at a local thrift. This is an especially good find, since thrift shops almost never sell these, preferring instead to keep them for in-store use.
This early 1960s credenza/hutch was a bit pricey for my usual range, but I think it was worth every penny of the $100 it cost me. Think of the piece of junk you'd get for that price in new furniture. Should make a good display for knitwear and other folded items, as well as provide a hiding place for paperwork and liquor (shh).
This tatty old rug was purchased new by my grandmother in the 60s, then moved upsatirs to our living room when I was a kid, where it proceeded to spend the next twenty years. The last ten or so it spent in the attic, gathering dust.
Mrs. G hates it, but she doesn't have the same affinity for the threadbare WASP aesthetic that I do. Besides, this is a men's place, best to have at least one thing the wife hates around.

I'll be back on track with the usual drivel soon. Also, look for more new Summer goods in the online Shop in the days to come.

Once again, I offer my sincerest gratitude to all my readers and customers, as well as all who helped in the fund raiser. The fact that this is taking shape for real is more than I could have imagined not too long ago, and I look forward to greeting you all there in person soon. A "soft opening" should be happening very soon. Stay tuned.

10 July 2013

The Equalizer

It wasn't until recently that I became a fan of solid colored ties, but in the past year or so I have been won over with a vengeance. Recently, I've acquired a linen tie from the Andover Shop in solid navy, and it has become a Summer favorite. The linen has texture and heft, giving the tie visual interest. Plus, it opens the door for all sorts of other brightly colored shennanigans, providing a perfect foil to more go-to-hell items,
A powder blue linen and silk herringbone suit almost seems quiet when pinned down with this tie...
and the orange jacket? Still admittedly crazy but maybe a degree less shocking. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet, but I bet it dresses up nicely with a lightweight charcoal grey suit, keeping things dressy but soft and comfortable in the spirit of the season.

p.s. new stuff in the Shop, plus many items on sale. Gotta keep things going while we prepare the live shop, don't ya know.

08 July 2013

Free Stuff : LSTN Headphones (or: ain't nothing like the real thing)

Recently, I was sent a pair of headphones for review by LSTN,  a relative newcomer on the scene. LSTN offers earbuds and headphones made of wood reclaimed from the scraps of the furniture industry. So far, so good. They also donate a portion of their sales to programs that help deaf children. So much the better. I can dig it.

When they first contacted me, they offered a pair of earbuds, what they call their Bowery model. I replied that while I liked what they were about, as an avid vinyl/analog enthusiast, earbuds were essentially useless to me, and I could hardly give them an objective critique. They decided to send me a pair of Troubadors, which  retail for $150. I anticipated their arrival excitedly. As a music lover with an extensive vinyl collection who usually gets home well past everyone's bedtime, getting a good set of phones has been on my "to do" list for some time. Getting a pair made of wood was un-heard-of.

When they arrived in the mail, I sure did think they were pretty. Cherry wood cans, with separate left and right inputs tipped in cherry. Only trouble was, they had a 3.5 mm jack on the end, and the big old analog record player takes, of course, 1/4 inch RCA jack. So, I listened to them on the phone, and on the laptop. And they sound, I guess, better than other phones on the phone or the laptop. But really, what audiophile considers the phone or the laptop any kind of reasonable facsimile of actual music. On the LSTN website, there's a lot of talk about how they use wood for the same reason pianos and violins are wood; resonant acoustic qualities. So I decide to wait until I had an adapter and could put these to the test via vinyl before I formed an opinion.
So I get the hook up, and I'm all excited, and I plug it in and.....sounds like crap. Disappointment to the bone. Then I notice this dang thing:
There's this little pause switch thing on the left side of the cable. See how its wrapped in scotch tape? That's because these things only work with the Marantz amp/Pro-Ject turntable set up if the dang pause thingy is depressed, so I gotta tape it down to make it work. I gave them a hard test: "Blessing in Disguise" by the Sonny Rollins Trio on East Broadway Rundown; "The Wanton Song" by Led Zeppelin, on Physical Graffiti: and "Il Porno Star" by Shellac, on At Action Park; all on vinyl.

The phones were simply not up to the task. All the reviews I read of them before were nothing short of glowing, praising the deep bass and lack of any "clipping". But I guess none of these people listened to anything analog, or the least bit physical. That's fine, I guess, and in fairness I do suppose these phones were made for more modern, albeit perhaps inferior, modes of recording /listening. And in fairness, I am an old fuddy duddy at best. But I must say, these left me flat.

Today, about ten days hence receiving the previous pair, I walk into a thrift shop to find this box sitting on the front desk. Of course, I nabbed it immediately. No word on the maker. Googling Game Industries only brings up a lot of video game crap. Ironic.
I bet you can already tell where this is going.....

grade school hearing test 1984 style....
Do I even have to say it?

abundant power...sound output...practical use...exceeding power.
That's my kind of language.

I have long been of the opinion that the technology of recording and sound reproduction reached its pinnacle in the late 1970s. I stick by that belief. Without having any of the science or terminology to support my argument, I can only speak from how I feel, as both a musician and lover of music. So I gave these the same three song test as the others. With the first pair, I could barely be bothered to listen all the way through. With these, I got a chill down my back, and wanted to stay up all night listening to everything: Led Zeppelin, Sergio Mendes, Motorhead, Eric Dolphy, Brahms, you name it. Direct and bone felt deliver of the human glory that is music.

$150 for the LSTN pair, regardless of the charitable component, would have left me cold. $4.99 at the thrift store, charitable component a plus, leaves me happy in a way that can be hard to describe to those who love neither analog nor thrift shopping.

Sorry, but analog has duende, and digital simply does not. Never will, it ain't human.

04 July 2013

Coming Soon


03 July 2013

AAW Live

It is with the greatest pleasure and the humblest thanks that I proudly announce that An Affordable Wardrobe has a (soon to be) new home, located in a discreet second floor location in Davis Square, Somerville. Look for a live version of the Shop soon. As always,my undying thanks and gratitude go out not only to those who contributed to our recent crowdfunding campaign, but each and every one of you who have read and stuck with me these last five years. Here's to the next level,or "taking it to the bridge" as the kids used to say! Details to follow.